Winchester Agribusiness Breakfast Meeting – April 30th, 2019



Percent saturated soil surface, difference from normal for the week of April 29th.  Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada      

Quote of the Day: “Forage soybean is a concept, not a variety.” – Sean Cochrane

Sponsor: François Mercier, BASF


Consistent rains and cooler temperatures have delayed most field operations. Even where fields look dry enough at the surface, temperatures remain cool and most soils measured are averaging only about 5 degrees C. Field activity to date remains minimal, other than a few scattered instances of forage seeding, fertilizer application, and spraying.



It has been a hard winter across the board for forage stands, with losses up to 90% being reported in Carleton County. Regionally, losses of 60-80% are common, though the area north of Arnprior seems to have fared better. Older established stands seem to have suffered more than the 2018 new seedings. Even the grass base of many forage mixes is sparse to nonexistent. The main cause of these losses is thought to be smothering by ice, either directly at the surface where snow cover was thin, or in bands in dense snow packs. Even slight depressions in the landscape are very visible this spring. Only two damage reports were noted by Agricorp, though this coverage is only for new seedings.

This situation will see many growers looking for alternatives, and there is some indication that annual forage or cover crop mixes (e.g. spring cereals, peas) will be in short supply. Forage soybeans are likely to receive more interest this year, though there is a general lack of good data on varieties and management for our area. Height, standability, white mold tolerance, and “growthiness” of potential varieties should be considered. Most forage soybeans in our area are 1.5 relative maturity. Soybeans to be grown for forage should be planted in narrow rows and higher seeding rates are suggested (up to 200,000 seeds per acre). Harvest timing is in August and a critical factor for feed quality and vegetable fat content in the forage. Potential yields are a subject of debate, though most agreed they could be similar to a three-cut hay system (7000-9000 lbs/ac). For more information see OMAFRA infosheet: Soybeans as a Forage Crop. Note of caution, feeding large amounts of vegetable fats to ruminant livestock has not always proven beneficial.

Alternative forage discussions focused more on grass mixes, with Italian ryegrass noted as a quick-growing, economical option that could be interseeded into thin patches of alfalfa/forage stands. Red clover could be interseeded into older stands that growers would like to keep for another year or two. Alfalfa stands seeded in 2018 with limited winterkill could be overseeded with alfalfa, but autoxicity becomes an issue in older stands. Forage stands with a decent grass base would respond to nitrogen. Sorghum sudangrass is another option that can be planted in late May. Lastly, cereal rye planted as a cover crop in silage or grain corn will offer some green feed, though survival this year is quite variable (15-60%), and some would rather leave it to grain harvest with an eye for the straw.

Some are in such need of straw that they are considering baling last year’s corn stalks, leading to questions about the nutrient content of this biomass removed from the field. Dave Hooker of University of Guelph Ridgetown shared a link to relevant research from Iowa State University on this topic. Briefly, there are significant amounts of nutrients in corn stover, though the exact amounts will vary based on hybrids, fertilization levels, the solubility of the particular nutrient in question and conditions after harvest (e.g. K leached with rainfall).



The winter wheat outlook is bleak across the region, with the possible exception of Renfrew County. The consensus was that very few fields will be worth keeping, though Agricorp notes that damage reports have been made on only 40% of insured acres. Some of the better fields may be interseeded with a spring cereal and kept for feed, and these will provide an additional opportunity for forage or cover crop post harvest.

Spring wheat seed supplies are tight in the region. There is seed available from Western Canada, but those orders need to be made as soon as possible to be available in a useful time frame. For more information on spring cereal varieties, go to GoCereals and see the 2019 Spring Cereals Report.



Many of the forage and wheat acres that didn’t survive will likely be switched to corn. Forage fields will typically undergo a 2-3 spray program, with a glyphosate burndown followed by a post-emergence products. Remember to follow labels and apply in the right conditions!



Weed control was also the major topic in soybeans. Canada Fleabane is becoming a more common sight in Eastern Ontario, though there was no specific mention of glyphosate tolerance having been detected yet. While the percentage is highly variable, there was general agreement that the proportion of Xtend products offered by seed suppliers is increasing. If planning to use dicamba, earlier applications are less likely to cause unintended damage.



Corn prices are steady. Soybeans continue their decline. Global geopolitics are reflected in planting intentions: corn acres are up, and soybeans are down.

Winter wheat contracts are being cancelled or rolled over. There can be possibilities to switch these contracts to spring wheat, though there might be a significant penalty for rolling hard red winter wheat as opposed to soft red.


Product Updates:

Manipulator is a growth regulator from Belchim meant to improve standability and reduce lodging by thickening and shortening wheat stems. It should be applied between growth stages 30-32, and can be applied with weed control or early fungicide products.


Crop Insurance Deadlines

May 1st: Crop Insurance coverage application for spring-seeded grains and oilseeds, spring-seeded new forage, and forage rainfall


Upcoming Events:

Dundas SCIA Compaction Day Aug 29th

Southwest Crop Diagnostic Days (University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus) – July 3 or 4, 2019

FarmSmart Expo 2018 (University of Guelph, Elora Research Station) – July 11, 2019

Eastern Ontario Crop Diagnostic Day (U. of G., Winchester Research Farm) – July 18, 2019


Next Meeting:

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019 – 7:30 a.m.


Thanks to BASF’s Francois Mercier for sponsoring today’s meeting!